There are a lot of terrible Indian software developers! Does that mean you should not outsource software development to India or not hire remote Indian software developers?
Last year, I had met one of our clients in Miami who had availed our services for back office support. He was inquisitive about the capability of our software developers, but at the same time, he had very politely and diplomatically mentioned that Indian developers were associated with a negative stereotype, i.e. they were only suitable for ‘donkey coding’ and not for the more creative and challenging assignments. This had left him reluctant in trying our software development services. I agreed with the point he had made. I explicitly told him, yes there are a lot of bad Indian software developers. Let’s not forget that there are after all, literally a trillion Indian software developers!
Simply because there are a plenty of poor quality Indian software developers, it does not mean that there are not excellent software developers from India too, I told the client. I went onto to raise the point that for the last thirty years, the size of brain drain from India to the US has been in the millions. Indian software developers and professionals are ingrained in the very fabric of not only America’s corporate world but also its most iconic establishments and prestigious academic institutions. “Just look at Silicon Valley, NASA or basically any other Fortune 500 company in the USA, and you will find a very large Indian presence”. Or, take a look at any top American University, “do you not always find Indian professors amongst the faculty,” I asked? “Where did this talent come from? Where were these professionals, born, raised and most importantly educated?” “If Indian professionals are thriving in the USA”, surely there are some good developers back in India, too,” I exclaimed. These excellent developers and professionals did come from somewhere (read India!)… and some of them must have been left back where they came from, right?!
If the Indian education system is good enough to play a critical role in the success of Silicon Valley, NASA and corporate America in its entirety, are we not making a bit of a mountain out of molehill when it comes to outsourcing a bit of coding to India?
When a staggering 70% of all H-1B visas are issued to Indians, surely there must be a lot of talent in India? Hearing this the client laughed and said, “You are right,” and then he also extrapolated, “there are a lot of bad American software developers, too .”
A few days later, I was in Greenvillie, South Carolina meeting another one of our clients. The CTO of the organization informed me that he was happy with the performance of two of the software developers they had with us, but had some reservations about the third developer and wanted to monitor his performance over the coming weeks. Naturally, I was very concerned by this. I quickly ran through all the steps we would take to rectify the issue and assured him that we would not accept anything less than him being 100% satisfied. The client was very relaxed whilst I spoke. Seeing how serious I was and the quick change in my demeanor, he retorted, “Here in the USA, every 2 out 3 software developers I hire, are unqualified!”
Did he just say that?! Are every 2 out of 3 developers he hires locally in the USA, really not up to the mark? I doubt it! Upon reflection, I realized that the client, upon seeing how animated I had become, was probably trying to placate me. He wanted to make the point that this wasn’t a major problem and I need not get so overly concerned, (incidentally, at the time of writing this blog, it has now been 3 months since I had met that client and he is still working with the same VE software developer). Even though the client was exaggerating on his success rate of hiring, it was very insightful, in that you will get good and bad software developers in every country. This is just a part and parcel of software development.
Was our client right? Are there terrible software developers everywhere in the world, including in the USA and not just India? I have not conducted any investigation on this, but I think it’s fair to say that this is possible.
Perhaps, the negative perception sticks more with Indian software developers because, a) it is more ‘sticky’ and simply makes better news and b) there are those that hold the belief that outsourcing to India hurts the US economy, (I have written in detail as to why I believe this is not the case: Why Hiring in the US and NOT outsourcing often HURTS the US Economy), and c) clients are often unfair and biased in their reviews of offshore software development services, (I have written about it in the past too: 5 reasons why Outsourcing has a serious PR Problem; why our apprehensions about outsourcing are vastly exaggerated?.
The truth about the stereotype about Indian software developers is seriously questionable. Yes, there are poor Indian software developers, but at times, several clients in their quest for ridiculously low costing services end up partnering with rogue outsourcing companies. If you were to do so locally too, wherein your focus was only on cost and not on due diligence , then you will end up hiring some pretty poor software developers in the USA, too.
If you focus on partnering with reputed outsourcing companies, you will find an abundance of highly talented Indian software developers. 50% of Fortune 500 companies do outsource software development to India; and these numbers are quite exceptional and cannot be ignored. The fact is that many of the world’s most successful companies who outsource cannot be getting it wrong, for such a long period of time.
If you look for it, you will see the success of the Indian education system yourself; not only in American universities and hospitals, but in literally any major city in the western world. I have friends working for banks such as HSBC and RBS in Central London and they are always quick to tell me about their Indian IT colleagues, “they are quite shy, but they are really smart.” Take the example of Jaguar Land Rover plant in Warwick, UK; wherein the number of engineers from Mumbai and Pune cities in India is simply unbelievable. I went to play for a cricket team in Leamington and more than half the team turned out to be engineers from India! This may not be statistically relevant, but I hope you will understand the point I am trying to make here.
Definitely, there are bad Indian software developers, but that does not mean there are not a lot of excellent software developers, too. Indian software development is not a case of mutual exclusivity! Why else is brain drain from India so prevalent? Your job is to ensure that you filter the good from the bad, just as you would do locally, too.
Unfortunately, there is no one to tell this other side of the story and ‘bust’ this unfair stereotype. In my personal experience, when I have met prospective clients in person and shared the other side of the story, they have generally been understanding and open-minded. However, very few companies while contemplating outsourcing, get to hear this side of the story. Indian software developers are often an ‘unknown’ entity, and the unknown is always scary, particularly when it is also associated with negative stereotypes. This prevents many clients, (who need to leverage the benefit of offshore cost savings) from hiring Indian developers, without ever realizing it. Find a highly reputed outsourcing company and just evaluate their developers, (you don’t have to work with them necessarily, whilst you simply have to assess their capabilities) and you might be pleasantly surprised.
The points discussed in this post however, raise some other interesting areas of discussion, namely with regards to brain drain. In short, why is the general consensus on brain drain generally positive, but the opinion on outsourcing generally negative? Is this not a contradiction? This, I will consider in my next blog post: If brain drain is good, why is outsourcing seen as so bad ?